Bangladesh has successfully completed 10-day nationwide celebrations marking the birth centenary of Father of Nation and the golden jubilee of the liberation. Eminent guests from home and abroad attended the ceremony including the presidents of Nepal, Maldives as well as Prime Ministers of Bhutan & Sri Lanka.
But the protests erupted after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations. Among them were as Islamist organizations, as leftist and newly formed political parties.
The reason of the protests is clear. Narendra Modi is the leader of the extremist communal religious group, RSS. He is using various forms of communal exploitation and persecution of other religions to establish extremist Hindutva in India. It completely conflicts with the non-communal spirit of our liberation war. As such, the protest was normal. India has also realized that there are a lot of disagreements among the people of Bangladesh about the politics of the BJP.
But analysts say the government was not too relieved. Dhaka University Professor of International Relations. Imtiaz Ahmed thinks that the protest against Modi’s visit to Dhaka is normal, which should be the case. Otherwise, it would be a surprise. He said, “Modi is against the ideology of Bangabandhu. That is why it’s unfair to invite Modi on the birth centenary of Bangabandhu.”
According to him, “Modi is a controversial figure in his own country. Citizenship Act, NRC, Teesta, Gujarat riots, human rights violations are all embarrassing Bangladesh. Modi has also used his visit to Bangladesh for political reasons ahead of West Bengal Polls. Therefore, He went to meet the Matua community in Satkhira. ”
Asif Nazrul, a professor at Dhaka University, said, “Since someone from India must be invited as a gratitude to its contribution in liberation war, then he could be a military official or political leader who played an important role during the liberation war. Modi did nothing in 1971. Centenary committee could have brought the Indian president. He is not a controversial person and the president is the head of state, who is above Modi in rank. I think the Awami League needs Modi to stay in power. So they have invited Modi.”
But Luna Noor, a member of the Communist Party’s central committee and former president of the student union, said they opposed Mr Modi because he had spread communal politics in the subcontinent that did not go with the spirit of Bangladesh’s liberation war.
Earlier, leaders like Yasser Arafat of Palestine, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Suleiman Demirel of Turkey attended the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence in 1997. But Modi is widely criticized in Bangladesh for his anti-Muslim stance in India. All in all, not only anti-Modi but also anti-India has intensified in the politics of Bangladesh.
Many leftist & righteous organizations, including Hefazat-e-Islam, have already spoken out against Modi’s visit. Twenty people have been killed in clashes with police over mass protests by madrassa students in Chittagong’s Hathazari and Brahmanbaria. However, it is believed that Hefazat Islam has been maintaining good relations with the government for a long time. But, now their ties seems to get fractured on this issue.
On the other hand, those who are known to be close to the government, especially the leftist organizations in the 14 parties led by the Awami League, have not been seen to take any position in favor of the government on the Modi issue.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in Dhaka at a time when dissatisfaction with India’s ties have raged mass people in Bangladesh vehemently. The citizenship law in India and the politics of Narendra Modi’s government with Muslims have often put Bangladesh in an embarrassing situation. The question is what Bangladesh has got even after meeting the various needs of India including transit facilities.
A bridge over the Feni River was inaugurated on March 9 to mark the occasion. In fact, it is a huge advantage for the people of Tripura to import goods from other parts of India or from abroad using Chittagong port. In fact, five years ago, the use of Chittagong port or transit-transshipment facility came into effect for India. But the difference between Bangladesh’s expectations and its achievements is now giving rise to various criticisms.
With the water of the river Teesta River we were fairly sure that it would be attained. Because for several years, several prime ministers had assured about this. And even it came close to be signed. In the end it didn’t. A very small action India can take to stop killings at the border. But despite the promise, the killings at the border have not stopped yet. As a result, a decade after Felani’s death, our people’s bodies still hang on the border.
With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi now on a visit to Dhaka, there is no sign of solution to the Teesta water sharing issue. Indian Foreign Minister S Jayashankar arrived in Dhaka a few days ago on the occasion of this visit. Then, he told reporters that the Indian government is in the same position as before on the Teesta water.
On the eve of Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in 2019, an issue raised too much criticism in Bangladesh: Bangladesh was hit by flash floods when all the gates of Farakka were opened. The northern part of the country remained flooded for several months. And last year, Delhi being the largest onion exporter to us, abruptly slapped a ban on Onion Exports. Following which, onion prices in our local markets jumped by more than 200% and forced the government to procure from elsewhere.
Moreover, Bangladesh is facing a crisis with millions of Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar, but it has not found India beside, nor any diplomatic support to cope up with the crisis.
In the list of receipts from India Bangladesh has only international connectivity and easier Indian visa requirements. Awami government has provided unprecedented assistance to India in its crackdown on separatists in northeastern India. India has got everything they need. But people’s frustration is growing now since Bangladesh is not getting what she needs.”
Historically, the extent of India-Bangladesh relations varies depending on which party is in power in Bangladesh. After winning two consecutive controversial national elections in Bangladesh, India has provided unparalleled diplomatic support to the Awami League government.
Many say that after the two elections, India’s position was in favor of the Awami League government against any international pressure. As a result, the Awami League has benefited as a party, it has survived in power but Bangladesh has lagged behind in bargaining in the interest of the country.
There is a perception that India has a direct or indirect role in shifting power in Bangladesh. India’s unwavering support for Bangladesh’s unilateral election on January 5, 2014 has given rise to much criticism.
Humayun Kabir, a former ambassador of Bangladesh, said, “We also need to consider how the people evaluate the relationship between the two governments. And the people of an independent country do not like any kind of interference from another country in its internal affairs.” Therefore, the people of Bangladesh did not see well the role that India played in the last general elections in Bangladesh.
Due to India’s behavior, China is gaining a foothold in South Asian countries. In this region, Nepal-Sri Lanka is also leaning towards China. But if India does not change its behavior, just talking or saying something good will not alleviate the discomfort in the relationship.
It has become apparent that Bangladesh and China have a closer relationship on dealing with the epidemic situation and the issue of vaccines. Besides, Bangladesh has recently had diplomatic relations with Pakistan. Relations between the two countries have been further strengthened with the inauguration of the Bangladesh Embassy in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, last year. Moreover, Turkey began to play an active role in the UN and various international forums on behalf of the Rohingya people and Bangladesh.
At present, China is directly involved in various infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, including the construction of the Padma Bridge and tunnels under the Karnafuli River. The total size of trade with China is about-14-15 billion. On the other hand, Bangladesh’s trade with India is one third that of China. If Bangladesh ever thinks in its own interest that it needs to develop its relations with China, it must do so.
The separationist politics of Modi government has already shook the whole sub-continent. Withdrawal of Especial Status of Kashmeer, and constant pressure on Muslims in India, judgment of Babri Mosque, and filing other several petitions for searching temple underground of the mosque, NRC debate and so on are weakening the thousand-year Hindu-Muslim religious relationship and increasing hatred among them. Such separationist politics are also influencing Bangladesh for security concern. If such heinous politics continues, all South Asian countries shall face the troubles and most importantly, India itself may be broken down gradually.
The main stance of Bangladesh’s diplomacy is: “Friendship with all, malice to none”. With that motto in mind, we need to strengthen our relations with all country, not only relying on India. Only then, Bangladesh will benefit diplomatically and become more economically prosperous.
The writer is an independent analyst on national & international affairs